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Statin agents and muscle aches

Posted Sep 12 2008 8:52am

How common are muscle aches with the statin drugs?

It depends on who you ask. If you ask the drug manufacturers, they will tell you no more than 2% of people who take them. They back this up with the experience in tens of thousands of people in published clinical trials.

What if we ask people who take them outside of clinical trials. How many then? I estimate, from my large experience, over 80%! In other words, muscle aches are inevitable in nearly everyone who takes them. The longer you take them, the higher your dose, the more likely muscle aches are going to be.

Why the disconnect between published data and real-world experience? I really don't know. In some instances, the differences are dramatic. The ASTEROID trial, for instance, in which Crestor, 40 mg, was given for two years, only resulted in 8% of people dropping out because of side-effects. My experience: everybody-- nobody can tolerate this dose for any length of time.

Let me qualify what "muscle aches" mean. It means achiness and/or weakness, usually mild, occasionally moderate to severe, worse upon awakening and less with use. It can affect many muscles or it can involve only one. Rarely is it incapacitating but it is commonly annoying and frightening. It commonly shows up as gradually diminishing strength with exercise. Strength usually returns promptly upon stopping the offending drug.

"Rhabdomyolysis", or true muscle destruction is, fortunately, very unusual in otherwise well people. People with abnormal kidney function, diabetes, and other concurrent illnesses are somewhat more prone. But in reality, rhabdomyolysis is unusual. I've personally seen it twice, both in people sick for other reasons.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) supplementation has been a godsend for us. At least 4 out of 5 people who require statins and develop muscle aches respond favorably, but it requires 100 mg per day. The preparation must be oil-based to work, not powder in a capsule which exerts no effect. Some people get by with less; some require as much as 300 mg per day. I've had favorable experiences with the CoQ10 from Sam's Club, GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, and Life Extension (www.LEF.org).

The Track Your Plaque target for LDL cholesterol is 60 mg/dl. Many people do indeed use statins to achieve this level, the level of LDL that amplifies your chances of heart disease reversal, i.e., reduction of heart scan score. The only drawback that I'm aware of with CoQ10 replacement is cost. Beyond this, it's a benign supplement that even supplies higher energy for some people who take it.

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